In a Facebook post on Sunday, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley said he had withdrawn Antoine from PNM’s list of candidates, while confirmation also came in a brief statement from Antoine himself, who said: “I made a statement of indiscretion (sic) and for this, I issue an apology. I have offered to the Political Leader my withdrawal from the PNM Team for the 2020 Election.”
Antoine’s controversial remarks were made during an address at Saturday’s launch of a campaign office. In a video circulating on Facebook, Antoine is heard saying, “America is a sh**hole country. I’m sorry to say that, right?”
In video clips of his speech, Antoine said the country had been hit by low energy prices and the covid19 "hit" which saw everything closing down.
"But we are recovering from it due to the excellent leadership of Dr Keith Rowley and his Government. Yesterday I commended him after Parliament – when we had a soiree in his office – on his excellent work. And he said part of why it turned out so is because he is a volcanologist. Because he virtually is a scientist he has respect for scientists. So when the doctors and so forth said 'follow that' he did.
"It is a great contrast to (US) President (Donald) Trump who has gone against his scientists and his experts and now America is a s---hole country. Sorry to say that. And we will have to make sure that we don’t allow Americans to come in to Trinidad. You know all them Trinidadians who run into America and they have to send back their barrel and so forth. Make sure that you tell them stay out of Trinidad for the rest of the year. All of your family and them,” Antoine said.
There was loud laughter heard from people he was addressing before he added, “And we have to make sure that we don’t allow Americans to come into Trinidad. You know all those Americans, those Trinidadians, who run into America and need to send back all their barrels and so forth. Make sure you tell them to stay out of Trinidad for the rest of the year. All your family and them.”
It was the second time Antoine’s comments had attracted a negative spotlight and Rowley immediately acted to drop Antoine from his team—two weeks before the July 17 Nomination Day for the August 10 general election.
Rowley stated on his Facebook site, “The Prime Minister has withdrawn Brig General Ancil Antoine (Ret) from the list of candidates to be presented to PNM’s Central Executive for final approval.
“This candidate’s removal is as a direct consequence of insensitive and objectionable statements made by him at a campaign launch recently, such statements are not representative of the party’s or country’s position.’’
Antoine’s remarks came at a time when T&T is trying to move on from strained relations with the US. This following UNC statements about a fuel shipment sold by Paria Fuel Trading shipment to fuel tycoon Wilmer Ruperti which is alleged to have ended up in Venezuela and the visit of Venezuelan Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez to meet Rowley in March—issues which the US had noted and which Government has explained, dismissing UNC interpretations. Subsequently, on World Refugee day recently, US Ambassador Joseph Mondello had praised T&T’s handling of Venezuelan refugees.
Mr Antoine subsequently apologised for the comments, saying he did not mean it in the way it was said. Rather, he said, he really intended to praise the Rowley administration for its handling of the pandemic in comparison to how poorly the Donald Trump administration has handled their response.
Antoine, who was dismissed from the Public Utilities Ministry in 2016, wasn’t reappointed a minister but had gone on to focusing on the constituency.
Antoine won the seat in the 2015 elections after Congress of the People’s Anil Roberts had wrested it from the PNM’s Karen Nunez-Tesheira, who held it over 2007-2010.
Today's Guardian Editorial seems to have supported the Prime Minister in the manner in which he handled Antoine's comment.
".... Surely, in these times when T&T relations with the United States are already tottering on the brink in the wake of Venezuela Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez’s visit to T&T and the Paria Fuel Trading fuel deal with Wilmer Ruperti, Antoine should have known such a statement was ill-advised at best.
One hopes that this incident will not bring more US wrath upon T&T, given that we are already in their bad books. Mr Antoine’s case has also quickly brought home the reality of just how careful politicians, in particular, must be in the handling of matters on the political hustings.
It is to the Prime Minister Rowley’s credit that he took swift action. Dr Rowley himself may want to reflect on how he too handles matters concerning the US when the party intensifies its campaign and realise that while Trinidad and Tobago is a sovereign state, without the United States as an ally we would be in a far worse position than we are today.
Dr Rowley must therefore publicly distance himself from any criticism of the US as espoused by Mr Antoine and ensure no one in his party feels so emboldened again," the Guardian editorial commented.
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